Rehearsals Have Begun and I’d like to share part of an email from me to Christopher, after the second rehearsal. We’re in a lot of table talk right now. It sometimes sounds like this:
Christopher, you asked Wednesday night whether the episode of Whitman text in the script was put there by Danny, the playwright of the play within the play, or by me, and of course it was put there by me, but I wasn’t particularly happy with my ability to clearly respond to the logic of what was going on. Tired. And it is complicated. Not just the logic of playwrights but also the logic of the word Religion and how it’s used in different ways.
… The second Spirit Sequence makes a major proposal about Religion and Spirituality, particularly in relation to the United States of America. There is the Whitman Quote itself which tells us that: The non-existence of evil as a substantial thing (opposed to Christianity/Judaism, speaking in broad generalities, where you have to somehow set the balance of sin right). Whitman is saying that evil is like shadow, a result of the light. It is not substantial. And he’s saying that the stars, the earth, America are an extension of this light. That to try and have America without “religion” is to divorce the object from it’s source. Shadow is part of the whole, the light is all that is real—do not try to discount or eliminate any part as unnecessary. We will never escape decay, death, evil. It’s built in to the way we see the world. And then, finally, he is saying, the way through is through love…but (I, we) hold off positing that idea entirely in the edit we have here because we’re holding that idea until the end. That’s what I think Whitman is saying. And it is what We all want him to be saying (me and Danny), but Danny’s trying to say more here.
Danny has this American Pageant idea he’s trying to get Adam to stage. The poetry is supporting a dramatic idea, story: the idea behind that is that Danny sees the Civil War as at least part of legendary Armageddon. In Christian Terms. He sees the American Revolution and the birth of Democracy as the beginning of the establishment of the promised Heaven on Earth and the coming of age of the human race. He sees the struggle for democracy as a new sort of morality that is slowly taking the place of “the king”, so often the tyrant king—for one, as Nietzsche feared, of “the slave” (certainly relevant to the Civil War and a result of an old patriarchal morality), of compassion, justice for all, humility, the feminine brought into balance with what was before masculine dominated. Because of this, he sees life as a huge battle that is taking place between these forces and that the Civil War was at the heart of it, a time when people were genuinely losing their blood over it, but it’s a struggle that goes on to this day, that we’re in the middle of.